Why Do Dogs Eat Poop? 6 Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop

lab mix sitting in grass and smiling up at the camera

Dogs do some weird things sometimes. Sometimes it makes sense from a human perspective and sometimes it only makes sense from a canine perspective. Dogs may have a reputation for eating anything, but eating poop is still one of those weird behaviors. Why do dogs eat poop? Here are a few reasons why dogs eat poop:

1. It Can Be Instinctual

Coprophagia is the technical term for the act of eating fecal matter. In dogs, this can be an instinctual behavior. Mothers with puppies will lick puppies after they feed to help them produce waste and they will also tend to eat their puppies’ feces to clean it up. This usually only lasts about three weeks after birth occurs.

Puppies may learn this behavior from their mom, but they also tend to eat poop as a way to naturally explore the world around them. It’s an interesting thing with strong smells, so puppies and dogs naturally want to investigate it.

For puppies, and some dogs, that investigation includes eating it, which is why eating poop is a common dog behavior. Usually, this behavior fades away as the puppy grows and tends to mostly disappear by the time they are around nine months old.

2. They May Be Lacking Nutrients

It may be gross to think about, but fecal matter contains nutrients. If your dog is lacking essential nutrients, they may turn to eating poop as a way to get the nutrition they need. Should your dog start eating poop, especially if they don’t do it normally, take a look at the food you’re giving them and how often you’re feeding them.

Reach out to your vet if you need to so you can make sure that you are feeding your dog the best dog food and enough of it. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact your vet anyway as this can also be a sign of several different medical issues.

3. There May Be a Medical Reason

Eating poop to get nutrients may be caused by more than switching food or getting portions wrong. Changes in appetite can also be due to a medical reason. Intestinal parasites, diabetes, thyroid issues, steroids, Cushing’s Disease, and other medical issues can all increase appetite and cause a loss of nutrients.

Sometimes, this results in a dog eating poop. Because of this, it’s worth heading to the vet if your dog suddenly starts eating poop or eating more than usual. This is even more important if you see other symptoms you should never ignore in your dog like excessive drool, vomiting, fever, etc.

4. Your Dog Wants Your Attention

Dogs do a lot of things to try and get our attention when they want it. Sometimes, that includes misbehaving as that tends to get them attention. Sometimes, dogs eat poop to get your attention and get a reaction from you. The same could also be true for why dogs roll in smelly stuff, in general. So, try not to react or overreact if you see them doing it.

Also, consider how much time you’ve been spending with your dog. If you’ve stopped spending as much time with them, your dog could be lonely or bored. It’s also possible your dog isn’t getting enough exercise, which also leads to them getting bored and potentially misbehaving as a way to get rid of excess energy.

5. They May Be Stressed

Dogs can do some strange things when they are anxious or stressed. A dog that suddenly starts eating poop may do so as a stress response. If there have been major changes in your dog’s life recently, it could be causing them some stress as they try to adapt.

Eating poop is also common in dogs that have experienced punishment or harsh methods during house training. The dog may eat their own poop after an accident in the house as a stress response to the poor training methods. This usually gets them in more trouble and stresses them out more, which perpetuates the cycle.

6. It Could Be a Learned Response

Dogs kept in isolation or that are used to being confined often eat poop more often than dogs that aren’t. Oftentimes, this is a result of stress from the isolation or confinement. It can also simply be a way to clean up their “nest” or “den” or could be an attempt to get nutrients.

Eating poop can also become a learned response in dogs that are fed too close to where they poop. In this case, the scents between food and fecal matter become too mixed and the dog no longer bothers to differentiate between them.

“Why do dogs eat poop?” may not ever come up at your next trivia night. But, at least when it comes to your dog, you’ll have a few reasons why dogs eat poop to consider the next time you catch them eating poop.